By some accounts, the woman who calls herself "Her Royal Majesty Queen Rose Mary J. (for Jesus) Windsor" doesn't seem like the type of person who'd feel at home in Buckingham Palace.
Her modest garb would clash with the regal dress of the British monarchy; the tiny apartment she calls home is hardly fit for a queen.
And she certainly doesn't seem like the type of person who owns the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and at least 11 other local buildings worth more than $1 billion--even though records at the county recorder's office and several computer firms that service the real estate industry indicate that she does.
The escapades of Windsor--who hasn't purchased any of the properties, but has filed grant deeds with the county saying that she has--are generally considered little more than harmless fantasies.
Flaws in System
But they also spotlight some flaws in the system the county uses to record real estate transactions, and, perhaps, raise some questions about the state regulations governing the conduct of notaries public.
By spending about $100, Windsor--who, Beverly Hills notary Dorothy Ward says, claims to be the daughter of the Duke of Windsor and actress Jean Harlow--has laid claim to several of Los Angeles' most prominent and valuable landmarks. In addition to the swank Beverly Wilshire, Windsor has filed grant deeds for:
--Chase Plaza, the 22-story office tower at 8th Street and Grand Avenue that was purchased last year by Japanese real estate giant Shuwa Investments Corp. for more than $100 million.
--International Towers, a 20-story office and retail complex at 9th and Figueroa streets.
--One Westwood, a 17-story office tower nearing completion at Wilshire and Veteran Avenue.
--The 25-story, bronze-glass World Savings Bank Building at Wilshire and San Vicente Boulevard.
--First Federal Square, the 12-story office complex at 4th Street and Wilshire in Santa Monica that serves as corporate headquarters of First Federal Savings Bank.
Santa Monica Properties
Windsor also has recorded deeds indicating ownership of several other Santa Monica properties: A Vons grocery store and nearby bank on Wilshire; a residential building on Euclid; trendy Cafe Casino on Ocean Park Boulevard; the 11-story Wilshire Palisades on Ocean Avenue, and a new building rising on the Santa Monica Mall. She also filed a deed with the county saying that she owns the apartment building she rents, plus the apartment complex in front of hers.
Several attempts to reach Windsor over a two-week span were fruitless.
Windsor's phantom holdings began coming to light when David Ower, owner of the Hollywood brokerage firm Commercial Properties, wanted some information about a tenant who rents office space in the World Savings Bank Building.
Ower couldn't locate the tenant's phone number, so he asked Dataquick, a computer firm tapped into the recorder's records, to look up the owner of the building with the hope that the owner could put him in contact with the tenant.
Dataquick said the owner was Rose Mary Windsor, who recorded the purported purchase with the recorder's office on April 21. Since the purchase was fairly recent, the address to which property tax bills were to be mailed didn't appear on the computer printout.
Surprised by Results
Ower asked the computer firm to search for other properties Windsor might own, hoping to find her mailing address.
"You can imagine how surprised I was when I got a computer readout that said she owned six other buildings, most of them along Wilshire Boulevard," Ower said. Even more surprising, the computer search showed that she had apparently purchased all the properties in March and April.
Ower, his curiousity piqued, asked a local title insurance company to send him copies of some of the grant deeds Windsor had filed with the county recorder's office.
The deeds showed an "H.R.M. Rose Mary J. Windsor" deeding the properties from herself to herself. In most normal transactions, a grant deed shows title transferring from a grantor, or seller, to the grantee, or buyer.
A later check by The Times turned up five other properties Windsor had deeded to herself, including the Beverly Wilshire and Chase Plaza. Since Windsor had filed all the deeds with the county, the recorder's office and all the computer firms that rely on those records now show her as the owner--even though she hasn't paid a nickel for any of the properties.
'A Bit Chilling'
Notaries who dealt with Windsor, plus government officials interviewed by The Times, doubt that Windsor is trying to defraud anyone. However, Ower says, "the fact that the integrity of the recording system has been so easily compromised" is "a bit chilling."
"I don't think Windsor is trying to rip anybody off, but the way she was able to fill out all these grant deeds, get them notarized and get them recorded makes me wonder how easy it would be for someone to pull off a fraud," Ower said.